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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton  


         Phil's Diary September 21, 2009



Charge of the fright brigade

Outrage this morning, from the usual media quarters and top doc Sir Ian Gilmore, that convictions for drunkenness have plummeted by 84 per cent over the past 30 years. Why are we letting drunks run riot in the streets? Has it all become acceptable?

I remember as a young (very young) reporter on a local paper in the 1970s going along to magistrates court and having to sit through half-a-dozen drunk cases before they got to the ABHs and other meaty stuff. It was mostly sad characters, regulars who quite looked forward to a night in the cells as a comfortable change from a shop doorway.

Quite simply, the charge of being drunk (the more serious drunk and disorderly was relatively rare) was used to tidy up the streets and to protect harmless inebriates from themselves. Anyone drunk and causing real trouble was charged with something more serious.

The drunk charge has fallen out of fashion as a wider repertoire of laws have become available. It was interesting to see, for instance, on my night out with Brighton police the other Friday, the use of Section 27 orders to send people home when theyd clearly had enough.

Its a good thing that pointless drunk charges are not longer wasting court time. We have better (and, admittedly, some worse) ways of dealing with things.

Once again, using scarey statistics without analysing them is being used to keep the moral panic over binge-drinking bubbling away.


Biofuels or beer? The big question

Opposition to biofuels as a way to combat climate change is gathering strength, which is good news.

There is little evidence to suggest that growing and burning vegetable matter can shrink the global carbon footprint. In fact, its such a convoluted way of going about producing energy it probably makes it worse.

And while half the world is starving it makes little sense to turn food into fuel. We have already seen food prices soar and, to get to the real nub of my argument, you can include beer in that.

Not all of the rising price of a pint is caused by tax. The last couple of years have seen poor barley crops, and the land given over to biofuels has made matters worse.

Beer not biofuels sounds a good slogan to me.

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